Paulo Futre EXCLUSIVE on Leao's future, Mourinho and more

Paulo Futre EXCLUSIVE on Leao's future, Mourinho and more
Futre in action for Milan
Futre in action for Milan
Former Milan, Atletico, Porto and Benfica player, Paulo Futre, believes in Sergio Conceição's comeback, and is confident Rafael Leao could stay with the Rossoneri...

When it comes to Portuguese football, Futre is one of the most resounding names that can make a dent in the hearts of those who love the sport.

Coming up in the mid-1980s, thanks to a limpid talent combined with a messy disposition, the Lusitanian 'Maradona' is one of the best people to talk about football in his homeland.

Straddling between Lisbon and Madrid, the city in which his two sons live, the former European champion speaks exclusively to Flashscore.

Let's start with Porto. Inter won the first leg in the Champions League 1-0... 

"It was a goal that came in the final (moments), that says a lot about the parity of values between the two teams. I liked Porto's game, I saw it well. Actually the fairest result would have been a draw, but the discussion is still open. The second round (is) in the Dragao, and I am sure that my Porto can make it. I have a dream..."

What's your dream?

"My dream is to see both Porto and Benfica in the quarter-finals. Benfica are already there, Porto is one small comeback away. Actually, the ideal would be a quarter-final between the two Portuguese (clubs), so that we would have at least one of them in the semi-finals."

Who would you root for?

"(Laughs) I don't want to have any problems. My story in Porto is totally different, because there I played more and won a lot. But at Benfica they treated me very well. But I am Portuguese first and foremost, though, and I hope the best will win, and I hope that in case of a semi-final between the two there will be no public order problems."

Benfica play very entertaining football...

"And it wins! (Benfica are having) a spectacular season. And I think if nothing strange happens, they will be champions of Portugal, since they already has a very significant lead."

Can 'the Dragao', precisely, make a difference?

"I think the big player may be Sergio Conceição. He is turning out to be a very good coach. I know him well and I am not surprised by his path. He was a very good footballer and he is repeating himself as a coach. And in this his experience in Italy has served him very well."

He is yet another coach who brings glory to the Porto tradition.

"He is doing an incredible job. Let's not forget that when he arrived on the Porto bench in the summer of 2017, there was no money (for transfers), and he had to do what he could with players who came back from loan and then managed to win the championship. Since that success, he has won several titles, plus he always takes his team to the round of 16 or the quarter-finals of the Champions League. For me, he deserves a 10 (out of 10) and I think he is ready to coach any European team."

What are the differences with his illustrious predecessor Mourinho?

"Sergio was forged by his victories as a player, especially with Lazio, with whom he won a historic Scudetto. On a character level, then, he is totally different from Mourinho. Sergio is passionate, fiery, he will never change, which is why he is sometimes expelled. It is impossible to ask him to change."

Mourinho doesn't change either, as shown by the expulsion in Cremona....

"That is true, but the two are different. Sergio goes a thousand miles an hour in every game, Mou is not as frantic. Conceição, however, transmits his passion to the players, and it is his character that makes him a phenomenon as a coach."

How do you rate Mou's second season at Roma?

"If he manages to get to the Champions League it would be like winning the Scudetto. It would be a spectacular achievement. I believe Mou (was sold on) the Roma project to grow the team. However, there is a need to invest more to have a team that can aim to win the Scudetto."

Along with him is another Portuguese coach, the very young Tiago Pinto...

"Good profile: he is young and comes from a good experience at Benfica. I think he has adapted very well to the Italian environment. He brought Mou to Roma and both are doing very well in my opinion."

If we are talking about Serie A... let's talk about Rafael Leao, whose future at Milan is in the air...

"I would be very happy if he stayed at AC Milan, which is the team I root for in Italy. But he is a phenomenon who could play for any team..."

How can you say no to Premier League money?

"Of course, the economic issue is its own thing. Maybe he has the dream of playing in England, it was the same for me, but I cannot know that. What I do know is that Milan have a very good project and are growing a lot, as is all of Italian football, which is better off than it was four years ago. Soon Milan could be fighting for the Champions League, and if he stays he could be a key element."

There is a Portuguese player in Italy who is very underrated. Mario Rui, a full-back, who is fourth in the assist rankings this year with six total decisive passes, The only defender with such a high figure... 

"Incredible! He is never talked about in Portugal, maybe his character has penalised him. It is very strange, though, that he has never found space in the Portuguese national team, even though there is significant competition with Nuno Mendes and Guerreiro. But I think he could have played much more with the national team and sooner or later he will get the opportunity he deserves. And in Napoli he is undoubtedly one of the leaders of the locker room and his performance in recent years is impressive."